The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

Arsenal 2-0 Olympiacos

I’m going to just come out and say it – this stage of the Champions League is a farce and Michel Platini should be ashamed of himself. All over Europe, you had top sides strolling to success over minnows – Arsenal winning this game with the Greeks parking the bus for 90 minutes, Sevilla destroying Rangers 4-1 at Castle Grayskull (side note: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Choke on that, ya bastards!), Barcelona strolling over Dynamo Kiev, Lyon thrashing Debrecen 4-0 on the road, etc etc etc etc.

Anyway, as stated, Arsenal largely dominated this match (Disclaimer: I only actually saw the second half…took a late lunch and nipped off to the pub. I followed the first half via the Guardian’s MBM). As usual, our guys overelaborated in the offenzive zone, and could not make their possession count. That may seem harsh considering how many shots found their way towards Antonis Nikopolidis’ goal, but many of them were fairly tame and easily handled by a quality keeper such as him. The rare times where there was serious intent behind the shot, Nikopolidis was equal to it right up until the end.

As far as individual performances go, it’s pretty much as you were – Song and Vermaelen were fantastic once again, Eboue showed flashes of brilliance going forward while committing his customary mental error (he tried to play his way out of trouble at the edge of our area, and a better opponent would have made us pay for it), Clichy was OK but got skinned badly once or twice, Mannone had little to do but made one excellent one-handed save, Arshavin and Rosicky played well without being able to shake off the rust enough to slice open a determined backline, Gallas continued his renaissance and was quite good, etc.

This one gets its own paragraph – ABOU DIABY FUCKING SUCKS AND SHOULD NOT BE STARTING FOR THIS CLUB. Honestly, in a sane world, I think he would struggle to get a game at…say…Aston Villa or Fulham. Seriously. If an opponent runs right at him, he can break up attacks and such. But, he’s not even as good at that as Denilson is, and he offers absolutely nothing going forward (again, not even as good as Denilson). I’m so tired of him ambling aimlessly around the field, misplacing passes and contributing little defensively. It’s like playing with 10 men. Does anyone at all think it’s a coincidence that when Arsene finally yanked him from the field and sent on Carlos Vela (finally!), we scored exactly ONE FUCKING MINUTE LATER?

That’s not to say that young Vela did much to contribute – he’s clearly shaking off some rust himself. But, he at least gave the Olympiacos defenders something to think about, and it opened just that little bit of space for Cesc Fabregas to work his magic. A buccaneering run down the left-hand channel brought two defenders over, and his pass to the overlapping Eduardo (who came on for Rosicky in the 65th) was perfect. Robin van Persie’s late run into the middle was met by Eduardo’s low cross, and even the recently out-of-sorts RvP couldn’t fail to score from point-blank range with the empty net gaping.

While Nikopolidis would have every right to feel let down by his defense for leaving his back-post side open after having held the line so well for so long,  he should feel just as aggreived at himself for the second goal. Fabregas was the architect once again, and his through-ball to Arshavin left the Greek backline for dead. Those who are claiming it was offside need to see the replay again – Arshavin timed his run perfectly, and his back-heeled volley was clever. While it had to have had the element of surprise going for it, Nikopolidis did dive correctly and he did get two hands on it…it just went through him and in. It was a terrible goal to give up for the keeper, but at 1-0 already and with his offense rarely threatening, it probably didn’t mean much in the context of this match. However, with AZ Alkmaar and Standard drawing 1-1 today, you get the feeling that it will be a tight battle for the second-place slot. If Olympiacos finish in third on goal difference, they’ll look back at the second today and wish they could have it back (of course, this doesn’t take into account that were it not for The Standard Arsenal Profligacy, this could easily have been 5-0 or 6-0).

So, what did we learn today? Diaby still sucks, Wenger sometimes does get substitutions right, Nikopolidis is still good even at 37 years of age, and we’re going to overelaborate until the end of time. Oh, and Olympiacos are crap, and dirty fouling twats besides. Same as usual, then. I will say though that the return leg will be a much harder proposition – Greece is a hell of a tough place to play, and these guys have just enough about them where at home, with a slightly more adventurous outlook, they can turn us over if they catch us on a bad day.

TSBS Man of the Match: It would have been Nikopolidis, but the second goal knocks him out…step up, Cesc Fabregas!

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September 29, 2009 - Posted by | The Arsenal

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